Over the past two years that I have had the honour to represent the Federal Republic of Germany in Namibia I have been confronted time and again on the basis of factually wrong, misconstrued, ill-minded, derogatory and even intentionally insulting statements, comments and remarks by – primarily – Namibian political activists, journalists and commentators towards Germany, the German people and sometimes myself.
During my long diplomatic career, I have served in many foreign countries. In all of them, I experienced situations when Germany and the respective host country would not agree on matters of political importance. There is nothing wrong with that.
Never, however, would journalists and commentators turn to a language as derogatory as the one used in Mr. Bob Kandetu´s article, as printed in the New Era edition of February 21, 2018, where he states that: “…contemporary German thinking was publicly expressed by the German Ambassador to Namibia on the 4th of August 2017, when he said that Germany´s killing of Ovaherero and Nama of South West Africa was justified as it was done in self-defence. It goes without saying that in their DNA the German government does not feel remorse……because to them the extermination orders were justified”.
Thus, what Kandetu said is that I, the German Ambassador, and the German government justify the killing of Ovaherero and Nama and this is part of our DNA!
This is outrageous and preposterous and beats, indeed, everything that I have been confronted with during my tenure in Namibia. Of course, we reject this allegation in the strongest terms.
In order to support his allegations, Kandetu referred to an article by Ms Jemima Beukes published in Namibian Sun of August 4, 2017. As he does not seem to be informed about the background, I take the liberty to set the record straight.
On June 15, 2017 I delivered a speech to members of the German School Association on the occasion of their annual general meeting. The meeting took place on the premises of the German Private School, DHPS. I delivered my speech in German. The German language newspaper “Allgemeine Zeitung” published an article about my speech in German.
Now, neither Ms Beukes attended the meeting nor her knowledge of the German language is sufficient enough to read and understand what others had written about my speech. Unfortunately, that did not deter her from writing her own version of the events. Thus, she told her readers: “Germany ….believes that the atrocities committed against the Nama and Ovaherero people during the 1904-07 genocide were justified.” Already then this outrageous allegation had, of course, nothing in common with the truth.
However, what I did say in my speech was the following:
“We (Germany and Namibia) strive for a result which should deal with the following topics:
1. To find a common language for the events from 1904 to 1907. The focus will be on how the term “genocide” will figure in such a text.
2. Germany is ready to apologise for the atrocities (the “genocide”) committed in Germany´s name during this time. It remains important for Germany that such an apology shall be accepted by Namibia as marking the end of the moral discussion. We will talk about the necessary details of such an apology.
3. Developing a common memory culture as well as a financial support for measures for the development primarily of those regions in Namibia, where the then mainly affected communities do live still today. In this context a major aspect shall be to empower the youth of the country to master the challenges which lie ahead of them on their way into the 21st century.
Absolutely nothing in my statement supports Mr Kandetu´s outrageous allegation!
Nevertheless, he uses Ms Beukes´ article and repeats the allegation with his own even stronger words. He not only identifies himself with her allegation, but he takes it up as his opinion.
Thus, the question remains: Why did he write what he wrote, what drives him and what is his intention?
*Christian Schlaga is the German Ambassador to Namibia.